Calgary’s Mayoral candidates debate the recovery and growth of our city

Last night in a debate hosted by Calgary Chamber, candidates outlined their platform on Calgary’s business sector, while discussing revitalizing Calgary’s downtown core, property taxes, and inclusive recovery and growth.

By Kristy Archibald | October 7, 2021 |1:48 am

Calgary's top five Mayoral candidates at last night's debate held at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Calgary

Photo: @CalgaryChamber // Twitter

Jan Damery, Jeff Davison, Jeromy Farkas, Brad Field, and Jyoti Gondek were the five Mayoral candidates who participated in the Calgary Chamber of Commerce Pathways to Potential Municipal Debate on Wednesday night. 

The topic of the night? The future of Calgary’s business and economic recovery. 

The debate was co-moderated by the Chamber’s Deborah Yedlin and Dallas Flexhaug, anchor for Global Morning News Calgary and questions were read from key leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners in Calgary’s business community. 

Yedlin began the evening by explaining that the event was not only about economic recovery and long-term prosperity for our city, but also a chance to hear about how our next mayor will help businesses survive this pandemic and how we can achieve our economic potential as a city. 

“There are many pathways to get here, and today we will hear from candidates to learn what their road ahead looks like.” 

Opening remarks

Jan Damery took the opportunity to speak on the trends she’s noticed in the city. She noted that women need to feel safer, newcomers need to settle in faster, kids need jobs, action on climate change, and they need ‘cool things to do in Calgary.’ 

She ended by touting, “what we do need is more doing, what we don’t need is a politician in the mayor’s seat.” 

Jeff Davison followed by stating dramatically that “like a TV courtroom drama, I’m here to present my case to be your next mayor.” 

On the same theatrical note, he stated that he planned on critiquing his opponents “not because they are bad people, but because they don’t have the track record — they don’t get Calgary.” He added that it’s not a two-horse race, referring to Jyoti Gondek and Jeromy Farkas who have been noted as the two leaders in the polls, and referred to both opponents as the extreme right and the extreme left. 

Farkas then took the floor and wasted no time attacking Gondek and her platform. “She sits here and says that she is for business, but her entire record has been against business.”

He continued to elaborate by reminiscing on a moment at council two years ago. “On June 10, 2019, business leaders marched in a property tax revolt on the steps of City Hall. I came out, I showed my face, I listened to you, and I spoke with you. Councillor Gondek didn’t. I even had to make a motion to attempt to allow the business community to speak to city council that day, Councillor Gondek voted against that motion every step of the way.” 

Farkas ended his remarks by highlighting his “proven track record to act on his convictions and speak up not just when it’s been easy to do so.” 

Up next, Brad Field introduced himself by highlighting that he was the only one that was a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He continued by stating: “I’m pretty sure I’m the only business owner on this stage right now that has actually created jobs and paid property taxes both commercially and residentially.”

Lastly, Jyoti Gondek introduced herself, ignoring earlier comments by Farkas and checking all of the Chamber’s boxes. 

“Like all of you, I understand that our young city is facing socio-economic challenges, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. We can continue to attract investment. We can welcome and retain talent and we can reestablish our economic advantage, we’ll need to be intentional to do so we will need to declare that we are a center of excellence for transitioning economy, that we are welcoming people who want to use innovation and technology to bring about more sustainable, greener and cleaner solutions that we can apply across all of our sectors. I have the experience, the character, and the will to lead us forward.”

Highlights from the debate

Farkas on attracting, retaining, and investing in young talent to encourage them to stay in the city. 

“I am the only city councillor here who actually voted against defunding the police and I think that lack of essential services like safety and security has really impacted our ability to stay competitive. Calgary is now the only major North American city without a downtown police station. And that station was closed at the same time as the drug site opened. This is completely at odds with the stated aims of being attractive to be able to start a family.” 

He added that he was also in favour of reversing the policy of the community guidebook and that he would advocate for a four-year property tax freeze. 

Field challenges Farkas, Gondek, and Davison on property taxes.  

“Under these three councillors, my person, my property taxes, my commercial property taxes have gone up more than 50% without an increase in property value. Mr. Farkas’ vision is no longer than an election cycle. And Mrs. Gondek and Mr. Davison’s vision will continue to reach into your pockets for more tax money.” 

Davison picked this up and continued the blow to his other two colleagues. “It’s time we have somebody who can pick up the phone, not pick a fight on Twitter”

Farkas ruminates on defunding the police as the conversation changes to revitalizing the downtown core. 

“The strongest message that council has sent lately is an embarrassment to defund the police and push an ideological agenda to have our city to be the only major North American city without a downtown police station. I find that’s embarrassing. We need to address safety and security in the core. Otherwise, people won’t want to live there and they won’t want to work there. Again, Council has been ramming through needless tax increases to increase the volatility in the downtown and don’t make it an attractive place to do business.”

And he makes yet another dig at Gondek 

“Unfortunately, the record of the city councillors every step of the way has been against business and against all of the things that are needed in order for downtown to succeed.”

Field realizes the importance of immigration when he has a run-in with Hungarian Calgary residents.

“It’s funny, I was out door-knocking last night and came across this couple in Woodbine and Hungarian immigrants. They were renovating their house — he was a true craftsman. They invited me in for dinner. I didn’t stay for dinner, but they toured the house. And it struck me as this is what Calgary is about immigration and bringing people in, but making sure that the opportunities that I had growing up in Calgary is available to everyone.” 

Farkas slanders Gondek, again on the topic of inclusivity and economic opportunity in the city 

“Unlike Councillor Gondek, from day one, I supported the city of Calgary’s mental health and addiction strategy. I think that it’s such an important investment because it’s an investment in our city.”

Gondek followed this by saying “make sure you’re making wise choices about people that can represent you, and implement anti-racist practices in this city to make us more inclusive and more welcoming.”

Damery singles out Farkas.

“Listening to the three counsellors about all of these things that they are actually now going to do and they actually haven’t been able to act together in the last four years to address these issues. Jeromy, you talk like you’re not even part of this council, which actually is a problem, because you never, in some sense have been — fighting them every step of the way.”

Farkas doesn’t hesitate to end the night without one more jab at Gondek.

“She doesn’t answer to anyone remotely resembling everyday people. She answers to the money. She answers to the backroom union bosses, who at this very moment, have shovelled in those $1.7 million to buy her the Mayor’s seat, and you’ll see Calgary’s future endorsement.”

Davison accuses Farkas of doing nothing.

“Past behaviour is the most reliable predictor of future behaviour. And for Jeromy, that’s a system of do nothing and take credit.”

If you missed the debate you can watch it here or view the live Twitter feed by the Calgary Chamber here

As of yesterday, unofficially over 43K Calgarians had cast their ballot at the advanced polling stations. In a poll by Leger, Gondek currently holds the lead with 27% of decided voters, Farkas trails closely behind at 24%, and Davison holds third at 12%. 

Click here for more information on the 2021 General Election in Calgary.

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Kristy Archibald

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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